Sewer plant to last until 2060, officials estimate
Existing facility will be easy to upgrade using new technology

The Moab City Council has approved a plan to guide the city’s sewer system for the next 10 years, though the capital improvements and replacement operations-and-maintenance costs will come with a price tag of more than $13 million.

But work done on the system in those 10 years could sustain the system until 2060, and prevent the system from risking failure from exceeding its peak capacity in a “Super Bowl flush-like” event. It may also mean yearly sewer-rate increases of about three percent, indicated Moab City Engineer Chuck Williams.

“If you don’t’ raise the rates,” Williams told council members Tuesday, “ultimately … we’re operating in a deficit.”

Williams presented a final draft of a sanitary sewer master plan, which the council approved later in the meeting. Unlike a storm-water master plan approved last month, which primarily addressed current needs rather than possible needs in the future, “This is one that considers existing problems and planning for the future,” he said.

“The system has a lot of pipes that have been in the ground for 50, 60, 70 years,” he said. In time, there will be some work to replace those old pipes. “We have about 28 miles of sewer, over 500 manholes.”

A project is currently underway (though no construction yet) to replace pipe along a section of 100 West that does not meet the city’s design standards, and where analysis indicates, “poor pipe conditions,” according to the sewer master plan.

“It’s a real bottleneck in our system,” Williams said.

About 1,700 to 1,900 feet of pipe will be replaced at a cost of $868,000. But that fix will allow the city to put off a more than $5.5 million project until 2026 or thereabouts, letting the city prepare for that kind of cost.

In 2035, projected Williams, the treatment facility would begin nearing its daily capacity of 1.75 million gallons per day. The facility’s peak capacity is 3.4 million gallons, which Williams said is sufficient to withstand the “Super Bowl flush,” the urban-legend concept of everyone going to the restroom at the same time — Super Bowl halftime — and thus overloading sewer systems.

But a new treatment plant won’t need to be built. For $3 million to $5 million, Williams said, the existing plant could be upgraded sufficiently to last another 25 years after 2035, by which time technology and other advancements will probably have created new sewer-improvement options.

“In sewer world, it’s ‘pay for now,’” Williams said.

In Other Council Business:

• The council held a public hearing on raising garbage-collection fees on businesses. No one spoke in opposition. According to solid-waste management representatives, garbage fees have not been raised since 2000. A 30-day comment period on the matter is now open. The proposed new fee schedule will be available on the city’s website soon, said Moab City Communications Manager Lisa Church on Wednesday.

• The council approved a special-event permit and beer license for Seekhaven’s annual Puttin’ On the Ritz fundraising event to be held Feb. 10 at the Grand Center.

• The council approved necessary permits for the Canyonlands Half Marathon, March 15 through 17.

• The council approved an alcohol license for the Moab Garage Company, a restaurant to be opening this spring, to sell beer and wine.

• City Manager David Everitt reported that an application for an annexation known as the “Shumway annexation” had been withdrawn. Everitt did not offer further explanation about the matter, which had been quite controversial since last summer. “For us, certainly some lessons learned,” he said.

• Everitt updated the council on “confusion” regarding reports that the city had exceeded the limit of money it is allowed to have in its general fund account. In calculating the fund balance, the city had not included certain road funds from the state. Accountants who performed the city’s financial audit did include those funds, which brought the General Fund balance in excess of its limit by $10,000, a number reported by Moab City Recorder Rachel Stenta. “It was an accounting issue, and certainly nothing to be concerned or worried about. In fact, just the opposite, quite frankly,” Everitt said.

ByBy John Hales

The Times-Independent